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Sailing to Byzantium : literary devices

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Sailing to Byzantium is a notable literary work by William Butler Yeats. A complete discussion of this literary work is given, which will help you enhance your literary skills and prepare for the exam. Read the main text, key info, Summary, Themes, Characters, Literary Devices, Quotations, Notes, to various questions of Sailing to Byzantium.

literary devices

Sailing to Byzantium” by W.B. Yeats is rich in literary devices and techniques that enhance the poem’s meaning and impact. Some of the prominent literary devices used in the poem include:

Imagery: Yeats engages explicit and sensory-rich imagery to paint a picture of the physical and spiritual worlds. For example, “sensual music” and “monuments of unageing intellect” are evocative images that contribute to the reader’s understanding of the poem.

Symbolism: Byzantium itself performs as a powerful symbol in the poem. It depicts an idealized realm of art, culture, and spiritual transcendence. The falcon and fish are also symbols of transformation and rebirth.

Metaphor: The poem is sufficed with metaphors that convey complex ideas. For instance, the metaphor of “sailing to Byzantium” displays a spiritual journey and a quest for artistic fulfillment.

Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words. An example can be found in the line, “That is no country for old men.”

Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds within words. Yeats uses assonance in lines such as, “Caught in that sensual music all neglect” to make a musical quality in the poem.

Anaphora: The repetition of words or phrases at the beginning of successive lines or clauses. Yeats uses this technique in the repeated use of the word “that” in the opening lines, highlighting the contrast between the two worlds.

Personification: The speaker embodies the heart and soul in the lines, “Consume my heart away; sick with desire / And fastened to a dying animal.” This gives human characteristics to abstract concepts.

Irony: The poem uses irony when describing the physical world as a place “that is no country for old men.” The speaker conveys a desire to leave this world, yet the act of writing the poem itself is a testament to his continued engagement with it.

Paradox: The poem includes paradoxical elements, such as the desire to be “out of nature” while simultaneously seeking to be “set upon a golden bough” like a bird in a tree. These contradictions emphasize the tension between the spiritual and physical realms.

Oxymoron: Yeats utilizes oxymorons like “singing masters of my soul” to make sense of contradiction, suggesting that through the mastery of art, the soul can transcend.

Rhetorical Questions: The poem contains rhetorical questions, which are questions not meant to be answered but to produce thought. For example, “An aged man is but a paltry thing, / A tattered coat upon a stick…” encourages readers to contemplate the nature of old age and mortality.